Monday, April 20, 2009

Blazing Beijing

The monday after Easter (April 13), we flew to Beijing, China for a 4day R&R together with some colleagues and business partners. It was actually my second trip to Beijing. The first one was, about 10years ago, wherein I covered an event for my old company. I'm looking forward to re-visiting old spots, and taking-in the new ones. I know that there are great sights to see on post-Olympic Beijing.

We took the earliest PAL direct-flight to Beijing, which was 7am. It was a 3hour flight, after breakfast is served, one can peacefully slumber, as they turn down the window shades and lights. Good thing! Because I woke up 330am, to be at the airport 430am!

We didn't get to land at the Terminal 5, the famed new swanky terminal that Beijing built for the Olympics, probably because our plane was small and came from a 3rd world country. But I caught a glimpse of the enormous rooftop of terminal 5, shaped like a dragon's back with scale-like structures. Impressive!

From the airport, we went directly to our company-laboratory, for a tour of its modern facilities. We anticipated an early dinner, but majority wants to go shopping. Off we went to Yashow Clothing Market. It's like Greenhills. A lot of cool stuffs like bags, clothing, china souvenirs, linens, and accessories.

Bargaining is both an art and science in these places. We were told by our Tour Guide Tony, that we should right away bargain at 60% off. But as per my experience, it can still go as low as 40%, and i learned it the hard way!

I was very happy, when i thought, i haggled successfully for some of those "Quadruple A" (kuno!) Paul Smith shirts knock-offs for my hubby at about 135 RMB each. Lo! and Behold! When I asked another colleague, she got it at 45 RMB each! Gosh, I felt so stupid! (I wish my husband will skip this paragraph. Otherwise, my future shopping abroad will forever remain in suspect) It tempered my shopping spree throughout the trip.

That's the drawback in shopping around these places. They peg the prices at such horrendously steep prices. If you haggle, pakapalan-ng-mukha, Don't feel you're short-changing them. They really expect you to haggle as horrendously as they've jacked-up the prices.

Then, there's the drama. After you've said your final price, and they still won't give in. Pretend that you want to go around and think it over, or check other stores. Then, they will surely grab you arm, & lower the price, if not give-in to your final tawad. If you're the type who hates their personal space being invaded, bargaining in China is not for you. The salesladies will grab your arm, put their hands on you shoulders, even pinch your cheeks as they flatter you with compliments.

Here are some of my interesting finds:

Since we are on the subject of shopping. Let me share some of my other experiences in shopping in Beijing.

Hong Qaio Market is also a must-go for bargain hunters. These are for bag / clothes afficionados, especially for those who like Greenhills-style shopping. If you like knock-offs, this is your heaven! They have everything, as is, Everything. The latest Marc Jacobs, Hermes, Dior, Prada, Channel, Gucci. But, they're very discreet about LVs. They're not brazenly displayed. You have to ask them for them. They'll give you an LV catalogue, and you just point the style that you want... speedy, neverfull, keepall,zippy, papillon, etc. etc. Point what you want, then, someone will get the stock from their "warehouse" somewhere.

Another shopping mecca in Beijing is Wangfujing Street. It's almost 1Km of pedestrian-is-king shopping strip. You can find the latest designer items here from clothes, bags to expensive watches.

Have you heard of the notorious street foods in Beijing? You can find these hawkers in one of the side streets in WangFujing. Right now, because of the recent Olympics, the vendors wear uniforms and caps and their stalls are more organized. Some of the weird street foods that I saw were giant octopus, scorpions, silk worm larvae, huge squids, last time, i saw sea horse on sticks!

Though i'm an isaw-eating graduate of UP, I cannot stomach these delicacies. But we tried those huge strawberries, dipped in caramel. Yummy sweet strawberries! But the caramel coating is tough on the teeth.

More Beijing tales next post!